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Are you satisfied with your sales in 2017? Did you get all or most of the orders you could have? Did you improve market share against competitors? Were targets met or exceeded across all product ranges and all sales channels? If you fell short, why did that happen? Are you happy with the number and type of new customers you generated? Did you contain the loss of existing customers within reasonable limits? Are your customers happy? Do you have an adequate funnel of prospects going into 2018? How good is your information on your competitors – do you know what they are doing and planning?

Take a moment to reflect on these questions. The beginning of 2017 seems so long ago now, with all the economic, political and social turmoil in a year that affected business confidence. Many small and medium businesses will have underperformed; some disastrously so. Consumers hold back on spending in uncertain times, there is a high rate of business failure, and we experience price cutting and increased competitiveness, as everyone scrambles for a slice of the shrinking pie.

The challenge many businesses face is to have a better 2018 despite the likelihood that economic, political and social turmoil will continue, or even get worse. Disruptive technologies and innovative customer service could make you stronger, but may be used by competitors to attack you. Digital marketing offers opportunities, but lowers the barriers to entry for new competitors. A risky reaction is to become defensive and try to hold out for better times. People love their comfort zones and are reluctant to move away from familiar ways of doing things, but staying in comfort zones can be very dangerous when the world changes around you.

Your customers are a vital factor in addressing this challenge. They fill up your bank account and are the curators of your brand. If they think that yours is an uncaring, lazy, greedy or untrustworthy organisation, all the brand messages you send out are wasted. You can tell them about your mission and values, but they will judge you on your actions, not your brand promotions. Your brand is primarily that which your customers perceive it to be, and they have communication channels that can expose their view to millions of others. Get to know your customers’ needs and develop products and services to satisfy them. Deliver wonderful service. Communicate with them and do not be afraid to admit fault. Positive word of mouth is your most valuable advertising, so give reasons to your customers to applaud you.

Measure and monitor every sales channel, product group, target market and marketing campaign. If any area is under- or over performing, you need to know about it early, so you can fix problems or find ways to extend overachievement. Become an agile, flexible business, capable of reacting to circumstances quickly and able to take advantage of opportunities with minimal bureaucracy. Flexible organisations can assemble decision makers at short notice and do not have outdated information systems. Lastly, increase the effectiveness of your sales and marketing efforts. Upgrade your sales team skills and productivity, and develop a measurable digital marketing strategy to keep your brand awareness up and generate qualified sales leads.

This article was written by mentor and coach, Ed Hatton.

See http://www.themarketingdirector.co.za/ for more information. Ed’s business advice blog is at http://marketingstrategy.co.za/

 

 

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